Falcons part ways with former All-Pro

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In a somewhat surprising move, the Falcons have released veteran and former All-Pro cornerback Casey Hayward in an announcement made on the team’s website.

I say somewhat surprising because many people pointed out he was a possible cap casualty. Hell, I wrote about it in January, but there was reason to keep him around.

There was a point in time when Cornell Armstrong and Darren Hall were starting games for the Falcons in 2022. Despite valiant efforts and mixed results, that isn’t ideal. Atlanta did acquire Jeff Okudah and Mike Hughes this offseason, but you can never have enough corners in this league.

Like I said though, it was expected in some capacity. With Dean Pees retiring, Atlanta hired Ryan Nielsen to take over the defense, and with a new coordinator comes a new scheme, which meant Casey Hayward might not be in the plans.

Moreover, despite being a solid starter, he wound up missing 11 games and will be 34-years-old this upcoming season. The financials of his deal also gave the Falcons a reason to part ways with him. Atlanta can realize $5 million in cap savings alongside just $2 million in dead money, per OverTheCap.

It makes the trade for former No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah even more important. He’ll likely assume the starting role opposite AJ Terrell, with Mike Hughes manning the slot. Atlanta better hope a change of scenery benefits the Ohio State product. Okudah has struggled with injuries for much of his career, which is why I expected Casey Hayward to remain on the team.

In that same breath, the future of the position is quite grim. Terrell will be extended, but the Falcosn need a long-term answer opposite of him. Okudah could be the guy, but so could Devon Witherspoon and Christian Gonzalez, who are in play for the club at their No. 8 pick.

The cap savings also put the Falcons back in the free-agent market. A linebacker or offensive lineman is possible as the two most glaring holes left on the roster.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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